FBI's Whitmer informant a 'double agent' who had drone for terror attack, feds say – The Detroit News

An FBI informant credited with helping federal agents infiltrate an alleged plot to kidnap and hurt Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was a double agent who offered to use a drone to commit domestic terrorism and use charity money to finance attacks, prosecutors revealed.
For the first time, federal prosecutors confirmed in a court filing exclusive reporting by The Detroit News about Wisconsin resident Stephen Robeson and divulged new reasons why the FBI dropped him as an informant. Prosecutors said Robeson, who is referred to by the moniker “CHS Steve,” short for confidential human source Steve, tried to obstruct the October 2020 arrests of six men accused of plotting to kidnap Whitmer and volunteered to spearhead attacks.
Robeson, 58, of Oxford broke an agreement with the FBI by offering charity money to buy weapons to be used in attacks, illegally obtained weapons and offered personal equipment, including a drone, to aid in committing domestic terrorism, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Roth wrote. The attorney is trying to prevent jurors in the upcoming kidnapping trial from reading statements made by Robeson during the investigation.
“In summary, CHS Steve was a ‘double agent,’ often working against the interests of the government,” Roth wrote.
The FBI has expressed concerns previously about drones being used to commit terrorist attacks and hurt Americans. Drones and unmanned aircraft could be used to conduct illicit surveillance, wage chemical and biological attacks at outdoor venues and on government buildings and personnel, testified Scott Brunner, an FBI official, during a Senate committee in 2018.
Robeson’s defense lawyer, Joseph Bugni, declined comment Thursday. The FBI declined to comment.
Robeson was arrested in March and charged with illegally obtaining a sniper rifle, an act that amounted to the first sign of trouble for the government team in the kidnapping case. In the ensuing months, one of the lead FBI agents was arrested and accused of beating his wife after a swinger’s party, dropped from the Whitmer case and fired.
Defense lawyers, meanwhile, have raised questions about possible misconduct by federal agents and whether they entrapped the accused kidnap plotters.
Robeson is not expected to spend a day in prison despite pleading guilty to a 10-year gun crime in October under terms of a plea agreement filed in court. The agreement calls for Robeson to serve two years’ probation for illegally possessing a high-powered sniper rifle, but U.S. District Judge William Conley will choose the sentence Feb. 3 in federal court in Madison, Wis.
The deal makes no mention of the Whitmer investigation but raises questions about why prosecutors were willing to offer such a lucrative deal to a convicted felon even though he committed a new crime while working as an FBI informant in one of the most closely watched domestic terrorism investigations this century.
Robeson has amassed a lengthy criminal record. Wisconsin court records show convictions for having sex with a child age 16 or older, sexual assault, and bail jumping.
Robeson was charged last month in a separate case with fraud after being accused of creating a fake charity and defrauding a Wisconsin couple out of a $3,500 SUV. The nonprofit was called “Race to Unite Races” and purportedly established to help law enforcement combat human trafficking, according to a court filing.
It remains unclear if Robeson will be called by defense lawyers in the kidnapping trial in March.
Robeson, however, is not expected to testify for the government during a trial that will detail an alleged conspiracy that prosecutors say was thwarted thanks to a heavy reliance on informants and undercover FBI agents. Five men are charged in federal court while eight others are facing state charges.
Three sources familiar with the investigation last year identified Robeson as one of the government’s undercover informants. Robeson attended and organized combat training in Wisconsin, participated in a June 2020 meeting in Dublin, Ohio, that served as a catalyst for the kidnapping plot, and he also attended a camp in northern Michigan where accused plotters underwent combat training, according to the sources.
Robeson’s name also surfaced briefly during a federal court hearing last year. Joshua Blanchard, the attorney for accused plotter Barry Croft, mentioned Robeson while arguing government informants were the main drivers in the alleged kidnapping scheme.
In 2020, several accused plotters spent the weekend of Sept. 12-13 in northern Michigan surveilling Whitmer’s vacation home, according to the conspiracy case.
The criminal complaint describes the late-night surveillance run from the group’s remote training site in Luther to Whitmer’s vacation home.
Three vehicles made the trip, including a truck containing five people: accused ringleaders Croft and Adam Fox, an informant, an undercover FBI agent and “an individual from Wisconsin.”
“That’s me,” Robeson later told members of the Patriot community during an online meeting held to determine if Robeson was a government informant. “I’m the individual from Wisconsin.”
On Thursday, federal prosecutors said Robeson asked another undercover informant to delete an in-car recording of the surveillance.
“CHS Steve told the informant that he would act as the leader in coordinating attacks in multiple states going forward,” the prosecutor wrote.
Two weeks after the surveillance run, Robeson went gun shopping.
On Sept. 26, Robeson bought an Armalite .50-caliber sniper rifle, which is powerful enough to shoot a target more than a mile away. He bought the rifle from a man he met at church, according to the plea deal.
“The man delivered the gun to Robeson and went shooting with him before the purchase was finalized,” according to the court filing.
The gun deal happened in Rio, about midway between Robeson’s home and Madison, according to the plea agreement.
“Several months later, the defendant sold the gun to a person he met on Facebook Messenger,” the plea deal reads. “Text messages obtained from the purchaser show the sale being arranged.”
The gun purchase was among the reasons why Robeson was dropped as an informant, prosecutors said Thursday.
“Because CHS Steve’s actions were so far outside the bounds of the cooperation agreement, it was terminated and he was charged with, and convicted of, being a felon in possession of a firearm,” the prosecutor wrote.
Other reasons included offering to use charity money to purchase weapons for attacks, and offering personal equipment, including a drone, to help commit acts of domestic terrorism, the prosecutor added.
rsnell@detroitnews.com
Twitter: @robertsnellnews

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